ES’ Bill Tucker takes a look at the Florida Virtual School in the new Ed Next. It’s a great piece looking at the program’s evolution. And now apparently the program is under legislative assault, so it’s timely. I can’t help but think, though, that although the program’s quality and publicly controlled nature helped matters, this graf offers the key to why the politics here were a little different than usual:
For the first time, this action also put [Florida Virtual School] FLVS in competition for funding with traditional school systems. “We would have preferred that it would have been funded outside the FEFP [Florida Education Finance Program],” said Ruth H. Melton, the director of legislative relations for the Florida School Boards Association, in a June 2003 Education Week article reporting on the legislation. Despite this opposition, FLVS was only a minor irritation among a number of controversial education reform programs. Melton concluded, “school boards are less concerned about losing funding to the virtual school than to the various voucher programs.” Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, reflecting on the legislative action, echoed Melton’s sentiment: “[At the time] we were doing so many different things that were provocative, this didn’t seem as radical.”
That’s why a lot of analysts see the publicly controlled and inherently political nature of education as more powerful, at least in the short term, than the disruptive effects of technology. Terry Moe, however, has a new book coming soon that puts forward an argument about how technology can scramble education politics. I remain skeptical.